The true test of a brand is its ability to remain relevant, resilient and versatile during tough times. The story of Royal Aroma Fortified rice is an example of how a brand aced this test at a time when the country was in the grips of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Being relevant to changing consumer needs during the pandemic
COVID-19 caused the concept of wellness to be drastically redefined and preventative health gained more mind-space than ever before. Research has proven that in addition to improving learning abilities, energy levels etc, certain micronutrients like zinc and Vitamin B complex also help in boosting the immune system. Hence, products positioned to support immunity or containing ingredients such as Zinc and Vitamin B complex, known to help the immune system, were suddenly in high demand.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to combat micronutrient deficiencies is fortification of staple foods. In Ghana, for example, the second most important food next to corn is rice. It is easy to cook and is enjoyed by all, especially by children, who fall within the category of the most vulnerable groups for micronutrient deficiencies. Fortifying rice would ensure intake of nutrients without any significant change in cooking or eating habits.
With these insights, Olam Ghana took the responsibility to launch the first fortified rice in the country – the Royal Aroma Fortified rice – by the end of 2020. It would be enriched with Iron, Zinc and Vitamins B3, B6, B9 and B12- nutrients that would alleviate micronutrient deficiencies of the nation during the pandemic era and beyond.
Staying resilient in the face of challenges
The first hurdle came right at the beginning. Research had shown that Ghanaians love their rice and are very particular about it. They want rice that looks good, smells good and tastes great! Any deviation from these, no matter what other benefits it gives, would not be accepted by consumers.
The challenge was to develop a product that would be agreeable both aesthetically and sensorially to Ghanaian consumers. The Research & Development team had to go back to the drawing-board time and again to develop fortified rice kernels that could carry the essential nutrients but would be indistinguishable from normal rice grains. The nutrients in these special kernels would not be rubbed off, washed out or destroyed during storage or cooking.
The team took the challenge head-on and through persistent efforts, developed special rice kernels that would satisfy these criteria. These kernels would then be added to the regular rice in pre-determined quantities to make the final product: The Royal Aroma Fortified Rice.
Versatility wins all the way!
Royal Aroma Fortified Rice was initially launched at a slight premium to the parent brand Royal Aroma. However, the brand quickly realised that the pandemic had adversely impacted the earnings of most families, making affordability key in purchase decisions. They quickly corrected course, reducing prices and making it more affordable. Today one can buy a 4.5kg bag of Royal Aroma Fortified Rice at GH¢36-37 at any open market.
They also realized that Ghanaian consumers were largely unaware of the concept of fortification, particularly in the staples space. Hence consumer education was crucial. The pack itself was designed in a way that attracted consumers and spoke about the complete benefits of consuming fortified rice.
Additionally, the pandemic had changed the traditional shopping and media consumption habits of consumers. The visits to crowded open markets had become less frequent and of lesser duration. Significantly more time was spent online browsing social media or accessing the internet.
The brand, hence, did some very strong digital campaigns to engage consumers and build awareness about this new offering. Some of the content that worked well for them were use of food influencers to showcase this new “Tasty way to health”- same delicious rice dishes but with added nutrients, the use of nutritionists to talk about the possible benefits of the nutrients, gave considerable visibility and public attention to Royal Aroma Fortified rice etc.
The brand ambassador, Nana Ama McBrown, also hosted live sessions on social media to promote the brand and answer questions on rice fortification.
For the year 2021, the investment on digital media for the brand almost trebled, based on the simple logic: “be where your consumer is”.
Royal Aroma Fortified slowly but surely gaining foothold
The urge to stay relevant, the resilience in getting the product right, even in the face of challenges, and the versatility that the brand has shown time and again, has truly paid off. The Royal Aroma Fortified Rice in now well accepted in Ghanaian households as a delicious and nutritious part of daily diet!